SELF ASSESSMENT customers should be alert to criminals claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
As the department issues thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual Self Assessment tax return push, HMRC is warning customers completing their returns to take care to avoid being caught out by scammers. The annual tax return deadline is on 31 January 2021.
The department knows that fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact customers. In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.
Many scams target customers to inform them of a fake ‘tax rebate’ or ‘tax refund’ they are due. The imposters use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the ‘refund’. Criminals will use this information to access customers’ bank accounts, trick them into paying fictitious tax bills, or sell on their personal information to other criminals.
HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan, said: “We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.
“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels. This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.
“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam. Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.
“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
Customers can report suspicious activity to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599. They can also report phone scams online on GOV.UK.
HMRC is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services – such as call connection sites – that are in fact free or charged at local call rates. Other companies charge people for help getting ‘tax refunds’. One way to safely claim a tax refund for free is to log into your Personal Tax Account.
HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team that identifies and closes down scams but asks the public to recognise the signs to avoid becoming a victim. HMRC regularly publishes examples of new scams on GOV.UK to help customers recognise phishing emails and bogus contact by email, text or phone.
Ways to spot a tax scam
It could be a scam if it:
· is unexpected
· offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
· asks for personal information like bank details
· is threatening
· tells you to transfer money.
Self Assessment customers can complete their tax return online and help and support is available on GOV.UK.
To protect against identity fraud customers must verify their identity when accessing HMRC’s online services. They must have two sources of information including:
· credit reference agency data
· tax credits
· UK Passport
Glimpse of exciting leisure centre planned for Llanelli
A GLIMPSE of the exciting new leisure centre planned for Llanelli has been released following Carmarthenshire County Council’s commitment of funding in its ambitious capital investment programme.
Designs for the £27million leisure centre, which will form part of the multi-million Pentre Awel health and wellbeing development in Machynys, include a 25-metre eight-lane swimming pool, an eight-court sports hall and an adventure play area for young children.
As well as offering traditional lane swimming and learn to swim classes, the pool hall will include innovative water-based slides, inflatables and wet assault courses to provide fun and stimulating activities for people of all ages and abilities.
The sports hall will provide top-class facilities for a range of indoor sports, including netball competition standard courts, alongside a cutting-edge gym.
There will also be a dedicated adventure play area with ‘soft play’ equipment for younger children including slides and climbing frames.
The specification for the designs for the wet and dry leisure areas follows extensive community engagement, including the thoughts and wishes of local school children following a public exhibition.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “We are excited and absolutely committed to providing a brand new leisure centre for Llanelli as part of the landmark Pentre Awel development which will provide social, economic and health benefits for the whole of Carmarthenshire. This forms an exciting element of our overall investment in capital projects to improve and raise the aspirations of the county.
“Whilst Pentre Awel is primarily a development to support the health and wellbeing of our communities, we of course want to ensure people can visit and enjoy this fantastic location for leisure too.
“Taking feedback and inspiration from local people, our designs include an exciting and flexible range of activity facilities suitable for all ages and abilities.
“We’ve no doubt that this new development will make a huge difference to the lives future generations in Llanelli and the surrounding area, and we look forward to seeing things progress in the near future.”
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We have promised a new leisure centre for Llanelli and we’re looking forward to delivering on that. We’ve got exciting plans for a facility that will suit people of all ages and abilities.”
The Pentre Awel scheme proposed for an 83-acre site on Llanelli’s coastline will be the first development of its scope and size in Wales.
It is due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal, with a total of £40million being sought for the project.
Already approved by the City Deal’s Joint Committee and Carmarthenshire County Council, the business case is now with Welsh and UK Governments with a decision expected imminently.
The scheme will provide public, academic, business and health facilities all on one site to boost employment, education, leisure provision, health research and delivery, and skills and training.
The project is planned to include integrated care and physical rehabilitation facilities to enable the testing and piloting of life science technologies aimed at enhancing independent and assisted living.
A skills centre will focus on health and care training, along with a clinical delivery centre to deliver multi-disciplinary care closer to home.
Assisted living accommodation will also feature, along with a nursing home, a hotel, expansion space for businesses, and elements of both open market and social and affordable housing.
Worth millions of pounds to the local economy, Pentre Awel will also create a wide range of employment opportunities across the Swansea Bay City Region as whole.
Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges.
Dynes mwyaf dylanwadol datganoli’n cael sgwrs dan y lloer
UN o ferched mwyaf dylanwadol yn hanes datganoli Cymru fydd gwestai Elin Fflur ym mhennod nesaf Sgwrs Dan y Lloer nos Lun 15 Mawrth.
Wrth i’r haul fachlud ar arfordir Ceredigion, Llywydd y Senedd, Elin Jones bydd yn croesawu Elin i’w gardd yn Aberaeron. O flaen tanllwyth o dân, cawn glywed am ei phlentyndod yn ardal Llanwnen, ger Llanbed, ei dyddiau yn cyd-ganu yn rhan o grŵp Cwlwm, a’r hyn sy’n tanio ei gwleidyddiaeth.
Bu’r tân yn ei bol am gyfiawnder yno ers yn ifanc, er nad oedd gwleidyddiaeth yn beth amlwg ar yr aelwyd adref:
“Ges i ddim fy magu ar aelwyd wleidyddol lle’r oedden ni’n trafod gwleidyddiaeth. Bydden i ddim yn gwybod sut o’dd fy rhieni i’n pleidleisio pan o’n i’n ifanc. Ond dwi’n gwybod am stori o’dd un o’n athrawon i’n dweud. Yn yr Ysgol Gynradd, fi o’dd yr un disgybl bach hynny oedd yn cwyno wrth yr athrawon bod nhw’n cael peaches and cream i bwdin amser cinio, a bod y plant yn cael semolina…a bod hynny ddim yn deg.
“Ac felly mae’r athrawes hynny wedi dweud wrtha i sawl tro ers hynny bod rhywbeth yndda i hyd yn oed bryd hynny oedd yn gweld annhegwch ac yn gwrthod cymryd hynny!”
A buan y tyfodd yr awydd i wneud gwahaniaeth. Daeth y blas cyntaf o wleidyddiaeth ynghlwm â phlaid ddigon annisgwyl:
“Un o’r etholiadau cynta’ nes i sefyll oedd yn Ysgol Uwchradd Llanbed yn 1982 – un o’r etholiadau ffug ‘na, a dwi’n cael lot o dynnu coes am hyn – ond fi oedd yr ymgeisydd Torïaidd. 15 oed o’n i; o’n i ddim wedi ffurfio ‘ngwleidyddiaeth yn llawn yn fy meddwl! Ac yn rhyfedd iawn nes i ennill yr etholiad ‘na. Ond dwi wastad yn dweud mai teamwork oedd e, achos Shân Cothi oedd fy asiant! Dyna’r tro diwetha’ i mi sefyll i’r Torïaid…nes i ddysgu o hynna ‘mlân.”
Bu Elin ar Gyngor Tref Aberystwyth o 1992 tan 1999, a hi oedd Maer ieuengaf y dref yn nhymor 1997-98. Ond daeth holl ffurfioldeb y rôl yn dipyn o sioc iddi:
“Do’n i ddim wedi dishgwyl yr holl rigmarôl o’dd yn dod gyda bod yn Faer. Ac wrth gwrs gwisgo’r tsiaen; mae tsiaen Maer wedi cael ei wneud ar gyfer ysgwyddau llydan dyn o’r ddeunawfed ganrif fwy neu lai, felly pan mae menyw ifanc, eiddil yn dod i geisio’i gwisgo, dyw e ddim yn ffito; mae’n slipo, ac felly dyw gwisgo’r tsiaen ddim yn un o’r pethau mwya’ cyfforddus yn gorfforol na sut o’dd o’n cael ei weld.
“Dwi’n meddwl bod angen i bobl – bobl ifanc a menywod yn enwedig i gymryd cyfrifoldebau gwahanol a rhoi eu henwau mlân, achos mae ‘na ormod o ddynion mewn gwleidyddiaeth wedi bod ar hyd y ganrif ddiwetha’.
“I fi, o’dd cerdded mewn i stafelloedd cyfarfodydd yn y 90au pu’n o’dd hwnna gyda ‘ngwaith i gyda’r Bwrdd Datblygu bryd hynny neu yn fy ngwleidyddiaeth i o fewn Plaid Cymru, yn y Cyngor Tref yn Aber, roedd yn ddynion mewn siwts llwyd i gyd, ac felly o’dd menyw’n cerdded mewn cot binc tamed bach yn wahanol, ac mae’n bwysig dod a ‘bach o liw i wleidyddiaeth.
“Pobl wahanol o gefndiroedd gwahanol, ac fe ddylai pob agwedd o fywyd fod yn hanner menywod, hanner dynion, achos dyna beth yw bywyd, ac felly mae’n bwysig fod menywod yn cymryd y cyfrifoldebau yna.”
Funding for agri-plastics research
THE USE of plastics in agriculture has improved food production and food security in many countries. It has also left a legacy of plastic pollution on agricultural land.
A new multinational research project working with five low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council will search for ways to resolve the plastic pollution caused by adopting plastics as cheap and readily available mulch layers, and for other uses.
It will have the dual focus of addressing current problems and setting up legacies to enable future generations to engage with the situation.
The UK Research & Innovation Award sees three Bangor University experts, Professors Davey Jones Dave Chadwick and Peter Golyshin of the University’s School of Natural Resources working with research groups from the Universities of Bristol and Reading in the UK, and soil scientists, socio-economic researchers, advisor and farmer networks, agri-industries and regional governments in China, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The five countries selected are at differing points in tackling their acute problems with agricultural plastics.
Together, these countries use 3 million tonnes of agricultural plastic film each year, covering 25 million hectares of agricultural land. They also span a wide range of climates and possess different governance structures.
As well as quantifying the risks posed by the plastics currently in the soil, the teams at each location will co-design practical, economic, socially acceptable and politically viable solutions specific to the needs and problems of their country to reduce plastic legacy.
The focus for Davey Jones, Professor of Soil Science is to investigate the impacts that conventional macro, micro and nano-plastics that are degrading within soils pose to the long-term health of agricultural ecosystems.
He said: “These plastics have wrought significant improvements. The use of plastic mulch films, in particular, has transformed the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers across the world. The use of plastic for such purposes should continue, alongside the continued development of sustainable agriculture.
“But the fate and disposal of plastics have never been properly addressed. We need to know what impact these widely used materials are having on the environment and on human health.”
Dave Chadwick, Professor of Sustainable Land Use Systems, said: “Plastic pollution is identified by the UN Environmental Programme as one of the top 10 global environmental problems and is hampering achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Most of the ocean’s plastic originates from the land- and terrestrial plastic may be a larger problem than we realise.
“We want to work in partnership and co-deliver viable solutions to help remediate lands contaminated with plastic. We also want to ensure that the projects have a legacy so that tools, technology and partnerships which develop persist beyond the end of the project, and can be shared with others.”
Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Director of the Natural Environment Research Council, said: “Pollution caused by plastic waste is one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, and UKRI is at the forefront of funding research to find solutions.
“These awards totalling £20 million are a vital step in helping world-leading researchers develop realistic and feasible solutions to reduce plastic pollution while enabling equitable, sustainable growth.
“Our investment in international development research aims to positively impact the lives of millions of people across the world and supports global efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”